2022 Trade Period Analysis: Izak Rankine, Adelaide

Welcome to the 2022 Free Agency & Trade Period analysis series. Over the next fortnight, the plan is to look at every player heading to a new club. It’s not going to be a ‘who won the trade’ series, but rather a look at how players fit into existing setups, or what changes they may force.

For pick five and some late shuffling, Adelaide have secured Izak Rankine from the Gold Coast.

On a three-year deal, Rankine is a monstrous upgrade for the Crows’ forward line. But there’ll have to be tweaks made to get the best out of him.

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Izak Rankine undoubtedly makes Adelaide a much better team.

When he’s added to Riley Thilthorpe, Darcy Fogarty and Josh Rachele, the Crows have key parts of their forward line set and locked for the future – even allowing for Rachele hopefully moving into more of a forward-mid role along the lines of Shai Bolton.

In trying to find the right words to capture how much of an upgrade Rankine is, I’ve settled on the following: he’ll (likely) replace one of Ned McHenry or Lachlan Murphy. That says more than enough.

Over the last couple years, Rankine’s mere presence has prompted semi-regular posts on The Shinboner, usually focusing on forward half stoppages and the chaos he causes.

While I’d be surprised if Rankine spends more time on-ball than forward, this ability to move and cause chaos still gives Adelaide’s forward half an extra wrinkle they haven’t had for a while.

With air (Thilthorpe, Fogarty) and ground (Rankine, Rachele) covered, there’s the ability for Adelaide to be a formidable team front of centre.

The question is whether the team style will allow their abilities to flourish.

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If you’ve missed any of the Free Agency & Trade Analysis posts, here’s where to catch up:

Friday 30th
Karl Amon, Hawthorn

Monday 3rd
Jayden Hunt, West Coast | Bobby Hill, Collingwood

Tuesday 4th
Blake Acres, Carlton | Liam Jones, Western Bulldogs | Daniel McStay, Collingwood

Wednesday 5th
Ben Long, Gold Coast | Zaine Cordy, St Kilda | Griffin Logue & Darcy Tucker, North Melbourne | Tom Berry, Gold Coast

Thursday 6th
Josh Corbett, Fremantle

Monday 10th
Jason Horne-Francis & Willie Rioli, Port Adelaide | Will Setterfield, Essendon | Toby Bedford, GWS

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In Adelaide’s post-season list analysis, I wrote the following, slightly edited here for length:

This focus on defence first has stifled any sort of creativity in possession. Adelaide are a straight line football team. That pattern helps them defensively, because predictability allows players to get in place behind the ball and saturate space at the drop.

But Adelaide aren’t a fast straight line football team, and as a result offensive patterns devolve into a possession-contest-possession-contest loop. Apart from Gold Coast, no side has a greater percentage of contested possessions to total disposals than the Crows.

While it helps Adelaide defend, it does the same thing for their opposition. Not forced to stretch and cover space, they’re instead allowed to focus near-exclusively on defending at contest because of the Crows’ movement.

It lessens the margin for error. While they’re playing this way, Adelaide aren’t going to be a bad side. Graduating to a genuinely good side will require everything to break positively.

Maybe this has always been the plan – consolidate the defensive side before adding offensive layers. Time will tell in 2023.

The last two sentences are key here because Rankine won’t become the player he should – if Adelaide continue playing like their first three years under Matthew Nicks.

They’re undoubtedly a solid defensive team, but lack creativity in offence. As a result they lean on their defence far more than other outfits, and have a lesser margin for error than most teams.

It’s why they struggle scoring in nearly every area – 17th in rate from stoppages, 15th from defensive half and 13th from turnovers. Defence achieves the initial phase, but too often they’re in a setup where they can’t make the most of it.

There’s a world where Rankine becomes just another above average player, handcuffed by team style when there’s an alternate option with him and Rachele tearing it up week after week.

It’s on the coaching staff to tweak their team setup to allow those two room to showcase as Adelaide move into the next phase of their development.

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In case you missed it, the Look Back/Look Ahead series recently wrapped.

Every team’s list was analysed in depth, with a key question picked out for 2023. In some ways the posts work hand-in-hand with these individual analyses, understanding needs and priorities.

Here are all the links to catch up on:

North MelbourneReadWest CoastRead
GWSReadEssendonRead
AdelaideReadHawthornRead
Gold CoastReadPort AdelaideRead
St KildaReadCarltonRead
RichmondReadWestern BulldogsRead
MelbourneReadFremantleRead
BrisbaneReadCollingwoodRead
SydneyReadGeelongRead

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